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At least 24 Maoist fighters have been killed in a clash with police in eastern India, according to Indian security officials.
They said members of Andhra Pradesh state police’s elite anti-Maoist force, the Greyhounds, on Monday attacked a Maoist camp in Odisha state where about 60 fighters had gathered for a meeting.
Police acted on a tip-off that about 30 fighters had gathered close to the border with Andhra Pradesh state.
“It was a makeshift training camp. Police have recovered 24 dead bodies of the Maoists during the search,” Mitrabhanu Mahapatra, the chief of police in Malkangiri district, where the ambush occurred, told Reuters.
One police officer was killed in the gunfight that followed and another wounded, said Rahul Dev Sharma, superintendent of police in neighbouring Visakhapatnam.
Monday’s clash was the biggest involving the fighters this year and police claimed it was a setback for left-wing insurgency in the region.
In March, eight Maoist fighters were killed in southern India.
Maoist fighters are active in more than a third of India’s 626 administrative districts and usually target security personnel and government installations.
The Maoists, who reject parliamentary democracy, say their armed campaign is to secure the rights of the poor and marginalised.
They accuse the Indian state of plundering the mineral-rich and underdeveloped east and central regions of the country at the expense of the poor and landless, among whom they retain some support.
While the level of violence has fallen in recent years, and the Maoists have lost hundreds of fighters to desertions and battles with security forces, the group remains capable of staging regular hit-and-run attacks across several states.
According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, more than 7,000 people, including civilians, fighters and security personnel, have been killed in Maoist-related violence in India since 2005.